Funded Childcare Expansion

– in the Scottish Parliament on 31st October 2019.

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Photo of Alison Harris Alison Harris Conservative

5. To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on progress with the expansion to 1,140 hours of funded childcare. (S5O-03697)

Photo of Maree Todd Maree Todd Scottish National Party

The latest early learning and childcare delivery progress report, published at the start of October, shows that in August, more than 46,000 children were accessing expanded hours. That means that one third of three and four-year-olds and eligible two-year-olds across Scotland are already benefiting from the expanded entitlement.

The latest figures also reveal that 214 nurseries have been built, extended or refurbished since March 2018. In addition, another 120 nurseries are already under construction. Nationally, over the summer, all indicators progressed either in line or ahead of the forecast national position. That is major progress. Although there is still a lot of work to do, we remain confident that local authorities and their partners will be ready to deliver when the 1,140-hours entitlement comes into force next August.

Photo of Alison Harris Alison Harris Conservative

I thank the minister for her update. The revenue funding rates for private and third-sector childcare provision are published and well documented by councils, but the councils are not required to publish their own rates. It is simply one rule for one, and another rule for another.

The minister has told me on more than one occasion that she will not ask councils to publish that information. My question is very simple: why?

Photo of Maree Todd Maree Todd Scottish National Party

A key aspect of the funding-follows-the-child model, which is to be introduced in August 2020, is the payment to providers of financially sustainable rates that reflect the cost of delivery and the national policy priorities. Information that was published in summer 2019 showed that the funding rates for private providers increased in all local authority areas over the two years to August this year. Average rates for providers of the delivery of 600 hours increased by 26 per cent over the two years, and many local authorities are also paying a higher rate for those providers that are involved in the delivery of 1,140 hours. In some areas, the increases have been more than 50 per cent. Given that local authority nurseries often operate in areas where the market has failed, calculating the cost of providing local authority provision is an altogether different question.

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

Will the minister guarantee that all children who defer entry to primary 1 in 2020 will also benefit from 1,140 hours of funded childcare, as Parliament instructed just before recess? When will she bring forward the necessary legislation?

Photo of Maree Todd Maree Todd Scottish National Party

As Iain Gray is aware, Parliament instructed that we review deferral and the automatic entitlement to 1,140 hours. As Iain Gray would expect, we are working closely with local authorities to ensure that we can deliver that as soon as possible.